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For Colombia rebels, a coming-out (of a jungle) party

— Of all a bizarre sights during a “conference” hold this week to symbol a finish of a FARC guerrillas’ half-century war, nothing was some-more surreal than a unison theatre they dismissed adult in a evenings. Set in a center of a immeasurable meadow, with a haze appurtenance and a video shade a distance of a tank, it was a brightest thing for miles around.

Big-name bands had been trucked in from a mislaid capital, Bogota, and some of a rebels came out of a timberland to dance in their fatigues and rubber boots. Others stared blankly, looking doubtful by all a light and noise.

“I went to watch for a bit, though it harm my ears,” pronounced David Preciado, 33, who had never been to a concert. He has been fighting in a jungle given age 14. “I theory I’m not used to it,” he said.

No one — not a guerrillas, and positively not a Colombian open examination them — is used to any of this.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has reached a assent understanding with a supervision that, if authorized by electorate Oct. 2, would move an finish to a longest armed rebellion in a Western Hemisphere.

FARC riotous fighters attending a opening rite of a 10th FARC discussion in a llanos del Yari. (Joao Pina/For The Washington Post)

To prepare, FARC leaders collected 200 riotous “delegates” this week for a six-day discussion whose settled purpose was to plead a accords and well-spoken a rebels’ transition to electoral politics.

Clearly a insurgent commanders also wanted to chuck their infantry a party, and a outcome was something like a Marxist-Leninist chronicle of a USO show.

During a day, while a commanders and representatives met behind sealed doors, hundreds of rank-and-file guerrillas who had been brought in to yield confidence and other assistance played soccer, baked elaborate stews and patiently attended to a questions of a many Colombian and unfamiliar reporters invited to a event. At night a drink flowed and sepulchral song rattled a jungle.

The discussion was hold 5 hours from a nearest town, in an area of eastern Colombia famous as a Savannas of Yari, a name that once conjured fear. It is where a FARC mostly kept abduction victims cumulative in a jungle, and where others dead forever.

This week it became a environment for an unpretentious insurgent city, with generators pumping 24-hour electricity, grill tents charity Old Parr blockade and cold beer, and nightly concerts underneath a full moon. Vendors offered T-shirts, ice cream and hamburgers showed up, too. It felt like a hybrid of Burning Man and a comrade summer camp, usually with AK-47s instead of Frisbees.

A few family members also arrived to reunite with desired ones they haven’t seen in years. If a assent understanding is approved, FARC infantry will start relocating to U.N.-monitored camps where they will start disarming, and their kin are approaching to be means to join them.

Preciado, who mislaid his left arm in quarrel 6 years ago, hasn’t seen his relatives or siblings given 1997, when he assimilated a guerrillas. They have no thought if he is alive, he said. Preciado has sent friends to check on them though their knowledge.

He let out a complicated whine when asked what it would be like to accommodate them again. “A sea of tears,” he said.

The latest polls uncover a Oct. 2 referendum is expected to pass by a far-reaching margin. But it was formidable to tell how a guerrillas’ celebratory eventuality competence play on radio to a Colombian open still conflicted about a deal that will concede FARC leaders to equivocate jail time if they entirely acknowledge to quarrel crimes and make amends.

There appears to be even some-more resentment, during slightest among poorer Colombians, that a understanding will give demobilized fighters income stipends to promote their mutation to municipal life. FARC commanders have insisted a classification has no income to contribute, notwithstanding a widespread notice that a rebels have socked divided hundreds of millions of dollars from drug trafficking.

The infrastructure set adult for this week’s eventuality — complicated construction equipment, a gas hire and generally a unison theatre — substantially cost a FARC hundreds of thousands of dollars.

FARC commanders were shy all week about their plans, ducking many reporters’ questions. The assent accords dedicate a Colombian supervision to dedicating some-more income and courtesy to farming development, though a agreement does not guarantee a kind of unconditional mercantile and domestic change that has prolonged been during a core of FARC insubordinate doctrine. The organisation says it will quarrel for those ideals during a list box.

The FARC, or during slightest a still-unnamed celebration that will attain it, will enter electoral politics during a time when a left is losing belligerent opposite Latin America. In speeches there was most regard for late Venezuelan personality Hugo Chávez, though small denote a guerrillas perspective his “Bolivarian” revolutionary transformation as a guidepost.

Pablo Catatumbo. whose genuine name is Jorge Torres, a member of a seven-man FARC care secretariat, pronounced their transformation would be clinging to “fighting corruption,” with a low honour for hostile views and ideas.

“We will say a beliefs we’ve always been struggling for: a Colombia that is some-more inclusive, some-more satisfactory and that respects approved freedoms,” he told reporters.

It was here on a Savannas of Yari that a Colombian supervision hold unsuccessful assent talks with a rebels from 1999 to 2002. The FARC was during a height of a power then, with as many as 20,000 fighters.

The supervision says a insurgent force has dry to fewer than 7,000 combatants, though a loyal series stays a closely rhythmical FARC secret. For those accustomed to saying photographs of smaller insurgent units, it was considerable to see hundreds of battle-hardened, trained fighters in one place. Although diminished, they sojourn a final vital riotous army in a Americas, and there is small doubt they would be means to keep fighting if Colombian electorate finish adult rejecting a assent accords.

No one here seemed to be considering that scenario. But Colombian antithesis leaders from a celebration of former boss and FARC archenemy Álvaro Uribe arrived to debate opposite a accords this week in San Vicente de Caguan, a city closest to a site of a conference.

The town’s mayor, Humberto Sánchez, was kidnapped by a rebels in 2006 and was hold 6 months in a forest, until his family paid a ransom, he said.

Sánchez pronounced internal businesses were forced to make coercion payments to a guerrillas until a month ago, and he likely many in city would opinion opposite a accords. “A badly negotiated assent understanding is worse than war,” Sánchez said.

Asked what they devise to do after giving adult their weapons, a few insurgent fighters during a discussion pronounced they wanted to go behind to propagandize or lapse to plantation life. All pronounced they were prepared to do whatever their commanders asked of them.

“I’d unequivocally like to work in media,” said Adriana Gutierrez, 32, after assembly so many reporters this week. “This work seems unequivocally critical right now.”

Gutierrez was removing prepared for an talk with a BBC cameraman. She has been vital in a jungle as a riotous infantryman given age 17.


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